asleep, surrounded by things that don’t

I’ve been sleeping on a new mattress.

No squeaks, no crater in the middle yet.  It’s one of those models where someone can drop a bowling ball next to you and you wouldn’t feel it. 

I am the bowling pins

I am the bowling pins

Due to the high tech awesomeness of the mattress, I can’t be sure that a bowling ball has never landed next to me.  The mattress isn’t much of a security system – I’d have no idea if an intruder was on the bed next to me.  I’ve been sleeping well, even in spite of suspected secret bowling ball drops.

It brings to mind a creepy haiku I once read:


Surrounded by things
That don’t

I’m the only thing in my home that sleeps. 

Everything else in here, things meaningful to me, draw no breath.  My computer, which seems to me to be most ‘alive’ never sleeps.  Besides my deep night breaths, my home is filled with cold digital clocks and the scarcely audible ticking of  wrist watches scattered on my dresser. 

 I understand why people get pets.  If you put your hand on the chest of a cat between its forearms, you can feel the unmistakable warmth of a beating heart. 

happiness is a warm cat

happiness is a warm cat

It’s only lonely when I think about it.  On any Tuesday night, I’m not lamenting that I don’t have a crying baby to care for or a moody spouse to  contend with. 

I was created with an innate easiness with being alone.  It’s not often that I need to be around people, though it is often that I need to be alone.  Today I felt that I needed to ‘get out of the house,’ so I went to the store.  After three minutes in the store, I felt the need to get out of there and go back home.  I scratched the itch.

(It’s been a year since I officially documented my WalMart-O-phobia, and I’m reporting that it still exists in full glory!)

Maybe I won’t always be the only living thing in my home at night.  It may not always be this way for me, but maybe it will.  Whether I’m sharing it or not, I’m glad to have my new mattress and the soft yet incessant ticking watches.


I didn’t even know she was coming over

When you consider that I took French classes for seven years between middle school and my freshman year of college, I really ought to be bi-lingual. 

If I did anything else on a daily basis for seven years, I would surely be good at it.  But French and I were never friends… or shall I say amis.  See, I had to look that up just now and it’s a basic vocabulary word.  I do remember one word though because  I thought it was comical when I learned it as a 14 year old — the word portefeuille.  It means ‘wallet’ and should be pronounced like this: port – foyee (with pursed lips and a strong a French accent).  French teachers never reached me, in part because I hid from them.

French Onion Soup - tres bien!

I speak French when it comes to French Onion Soup

I would bungle through France.  I’d be the kind of mess that’s made worse because I should have someclue how to communicate.  Like how the squealing of a violin is worse when the kid playing has been in lessons for a few years.  She really ought to be better and people listen with disappointed furrowed brows.  This in mind, aside from my occasional reference to my empty port-foyee, I speak English.  Not much linguistic variety. 

But earlier this week, I was spoken to in a different way and resonated.  It was so striking that it sent me reeling.  It was so stunningly clear that it sliced straight through my filters.  Someone found me.

It was as if Jane Kenyon walked into my mind’s living room, sat down next to me and told me how I tick.  All without my asking.  I didn’t even know she was coming over.

The cadence of her poems, the unfussy metaphors, her wineglass weary of holding wine and her pear that spoils from the inside out — these things mesmerize me. 

I am not going to list out a bunch of her poems here;  that’s not why I’m writing this.  The point is that I’ve experienced a “You too?” moment with someone who died in 1995 but was talking to me all along.  The notes that Jane Kenyon hit reverberate brilliantly with the language I speak inwardly but rarely outwardly. 

I am saddened that she’s gone.  I’m saddened that she was so often so sad.  But much more lasting is that she was able to talk with someone like me, hiding out where she once hid.

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon


plus, the males have bright red toupees

My grandmother gave me a suet bird feeder for Christmas. 
Chickadee can't believe his good fortune

Chickadee can't believe his good fortune

That means the bird seed is suspended in beef fat and molded into a block that birds peck at.  Suet avec la peanut butter is all the rage amongst woodpeckers and chickadees.  They flock to it like…birds to a feeder.

As I watch the birds peck at the feeder I wonder if the suet is in their way, like a banana peel gets in my way.  Except the birds don’t have hands to wipe away the suet, so they unwillingly swallow it with the seeds thinking, “This is gross but worth the nutrition from the mustard seed thing encapsulated within the fat.”

I certainly don’t intend to annoy the birds by setting out my feeder, and they keep coming back so we must be on good terms.  I’ve enjoyed feeding the birds much more than I thought I would.

There is thick woods behind my back porch.  In the summer, the leaves creep right up to the railing and the light coming through my back windows is tinted green.  It can be a bit much.  I didn’t know that there were lots of woodpeckers living being my building until this winter.  In the summer, Boogey Man could be walking around out there and I wouldn’t know it until he came right up to the porch.

Encrouching flora

Encroaching flora

This is the same view, mid-winter.  Now I can see Boogey Man, woodpeckers, and must admit that I have neighbors.
Note the suet feeder

Note the suet feeder

 My favorite visitors to the feeder are Downy Woodpeckers.  They are small and (apparently) common in the U.S., but they were uncommon to me before the feeder came into both our lives.

So...they're not only in MY backyard?

The moment I realized they're not only in MY backyard

Downy Woodpecker loves suet avec la peanut butter

Downy Woodpecker loves suet avec la peanut butter

It isn’t because I particularly like birds.  I don’t like beaks or talons.  You can’t really pet them, I’ve never seen a snuggly bird.  However, I do like watching their jerky head-movements and how they appear and disappear without warning.  Plus, the males have bright red toupees.

But beyond critiquing the woodpeckers’ hair, I know that I keep re-filling the feeder because I want to take care of something.  In a small and silly way, I feel less alone when they are out there.  My maternal instinct keeps me buying 99 cent blocks of beef fat with mustard seed things suspended inside.  What a peculiar and beautiful thing.

Downy Woodpecker getting food sans peanut butter

Downy Woodpecker pecks for food sans peanut butter


a kitchen table of knotted wood

Crunch.  Step.

                  Crunch. Step.

My left foot is crunching on dry brown leaves and frosted grass, while my right foot is falling on the concrete sidewalk.  It’s 5:30pm and dark enough to be midnight.  December 9th.  Days are short these days.

I’m carrying in my mail and shouldering my bag.  My breath is swirling behind me and I can hear the engine of my car tinking as it quickly cools.  All of the cars in the parking lot are spritzed with rock salt except the one in the handicapped spot.  Sporadic lights are on in the building where I live, not all of us are home.

Someday I’ll live in a house.  My house.

In my house I’ll have a wood-burning fireplace with soot around the edges.  And a pile of split birch wood next to it.winter-birch-22

It’s windy tonight.  My muscles tense to keep warm and I close my eyes tight for a moment while walking.  I can feel my nose turning pink.  My fingers are mechanically clamped on the envelopes and holiday issue of Land’s End.  No gloves. 

In my house I’ll have a kitchen table of knotted wood.  And heavy bowls set out with soup spoons by their sides. 

I’m fumbling with my keys because my fingers are frozen around the mail.  My doorway is dark.  Brown dry leaves are huddled up in the corner, blown in.  Everything is quiet besides the clinking of my keys.  I can’t see very well what I’m doing. 

In my house I’ll have a little cat.  She’ll wake up and blink her eyes when I walk in at 5:30 on a Tuesday.  Warm, content, and waiting.



better when broken into simplest form

A couple weeks ago my power went out in the middle of the night.  When I left for work the following morning, I didn’t know when it would come back on.  There wasn’t much I could do about the food in my freezer thawing out, though I had the presence of mind to take the bag of ice out and plop it into the kitchen sink.  If the ice was going to melt, I didn’t want it dripping all over the freezer.

When I returned from work the bag of ice had been reduced to a wet, crumpled plastic blob on the bottom of the sink. 

It struck me that those days that the ice was in my freezer, I had been pumping energy into it to keep it frozen.  It took effort to maintain.  When I removed the energy the ice melted into liquid.  If I were to pump more energy into it, I could’ve boiled the water and made steam.

There, in a blob at the bottom of my sink, was baseline water.  Entropy at work. 

In a very small nutshell, entropy is the law of thermodynamics that explains how things degenerate from order to chaos.  It’s molecularly more comfortable and uses the minimum amount of energy possible.

Sense –> non-sense

Fresh –> rotten

In the case of my closet, folded –> unfolded.

It’s really no wonder why nothing is ever perfect.  Given enough time, the hardest stone crumbles and the hottest flame burns out.  What we try so hard to keep in order would prefer to blob in the sink if it had its own way.


I’m not one to battle the immovable laws of physics.

I am choosing to embrace the imperfect parts of my life.  Like homemade bread, the charm of life is in the distinctive imperfections.  A camping trip where some things go wrong is more memorable than where things go exactly as planned.  The knotted wood of an old rocking chair has more charisma than a plastic replica that will last 500 years, and the authentic repentance of a prodigal is more sincere than the public prayer of a pharisee.


To be practical, I’ll still fold my clothes and keep ice in my freezer.  I’ll wrestle entropy on the little things so that my home doesn’t become a huge dirt pile, but when it comes to me, I’m better when broken into the simplest form.


finding other things to do than goal setting

The very first word that I remember reading was “FREE.”  I flipped out and made sure that my mother knew that I was reading it.  Over and over.

It was on the back of  Rice Krispies box.  It was advertizing a free toy that you could have if you mailed in proofs-of-purchase to their corporate office. 

The only toy that I ever sent for off a cereal box was a Tony the Tiger baseball from Frosted Flakes.  I saved up a few proofs-of-purchase, which I found out meant cutting out the barcode off the box.  With my mothers’ help, I mailed them away.  The ball came three months later.  I had forgotten that I sent for it, and I was bowled over when a little cardboard box came one day, addressed to ME.  ME?!  I took it to a secret place in the house and opened it with twinkling eyes.

The truly amazing part of this little story is that my parents allowed me to have enough Frosted Flakes to get the ball in the first place.  We were a Cheerios and Rice Krispies family…no fun cereals, at least as far as 5 year old Kari was concerned.  My favorite was Fruity Pebbles and a generous guess is that my mother would cave and buy them once a year for me.

It’s possible that my parents let me have enough Frosted Flakes to get the ball because they were excited that I had a goal.  I can imagine their conversation:

Mom:  But I thought we weren’t buying the girls sugar cereals?

Dad:  If Kari has a goal, we need to encourage that.  She never has goals.

Mom:  Well…that’s true…

And it was very true — that baseball is the first thing that I ever remember working towards.  On the other hand, what kind of goal takes three months to come in the mail?  If I had known that getting the baseball was a “goal,” I probably would’ve found something different to do.

Goal setting books = Kari repellant

Goal setting books = Kari repellant

One of the dimmest moments of my professional life of the last six years had to do with my lack of goal setting.  It was at my very first annual review.  When my manager asked me what goals I would like to set for myself, my response went something like this:

“I don’t like goals.”

I had lame reasons for not wanting to set goals.  She sat across the table from me with squinted eyes.  How do you manage someone who refuses to set goals for anything?  At the time, I had NO idea that I was being difficult.  I thought I was being smart! 

I’m sure she could’ve had a great conversation with my parents after that review.  Maybe if she dangled a Tony the Tiger baseball in front of me, THEN I would’ve worked harder?

Although I’m older, goal setting and I have yet to click.  It’s like flossing.  I understand that it’s important to floss, so I floss every night.  But as I’m pulling that thin string out of it’s white box, I’m annoyed and literally forcing myself to care for myself

Flossing gives the name Flossi a bad rap

Flossing gives the name Flossi a bad rap

I may never enjoy setting goals, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of an easy dental check up, and I did enjoy getting that baseball in the mail.  I’ll take little goal setting steps.

My goal tonight is to eat a bowl of Fruity Pebbles!  See, it’s not always so painful…


this is your chance to run an intervention

A girl really only needs one guitar.

                 It’s all she can play at once. 

The only time having more than one guitar has come in handy was when I’ve attempted to recruit friends to play along with me.  So far that’s been a miserable failure, mostly because their nails are too long and will not be sacrificed for my impromptu session.

Over the last 12 years I’ve owned six different guitars.  I worked a block away from a guitar store for five years. 

Saratoga Guitar

Saratoga Guitar

I found that if I went into the store, an instrument would catch my eye and then my imagination.  I would leave the store, but return a few days later.  At home, I would make room for it.  The next trip to the store was with a hot fist of money. 

Every once in a while an idea embeds itself in my mind and won’t go away until I either 1.) fulfill the calling or 2.) conclude it wouldn’t be financially responsible to fulfill the calling.  The guitars are a prime example.  Over the past year, it’s been getting a tattoo. 

If you read the ‘author’ section of my blog, you’ll see that I would get a tattoo if I didn’t have any hangups.  By that I mean if I were the only person on Earth and there were no one to judge me, no one to say that tattoos are for “tough” people, no one to say that they’re ugly, I would get one.  In all fairness, if I were the only person on Earth, my tattoo would look bad crazy because I would have to do it myself!   But hey, there wouldn’t be anyone around to make me insecure about it, so my imperfect tattoo and imperfect self would wander the wilderness in sincere security that we’re OK with each other. 

It’s simple: I believe that tattoos can be beautiful. 

What complicates the issue for me is that not everyone else thinks so, including most of the people who are closest to me.  As a human resources professional, it would be untraditional for me to conduct an interview with a tattoo showing, even a tiny bit.  (I know that I could get one in a place that can be totally covered up, but what’s the point?)  Because I do not live in a Kari-vacuum, (most of the time), I will not ignore the social implications of tattooing. 

I’m in the “leave the store, then return a few days later” stage.  To run an intervention, give me a reason not to fulfill the calling by leaving a comment to this post!

I leave you now with some of the worst tattoos that I found online